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Tampa Bay Rays Game 93: Clutch Homers and a Note About Erasmo

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For once, I have to do a recap the next day (rather than the same day) about a Tampa Bay Rays game that was exciting. Let’s make up for lost time and then talk about the minor league contests in a few minutes.

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Tampa Bay Rays 3, Toronto Blue Jays 2

The score of this game was vintage Rays, but the way it played out was decidedly not. Even so, the Rays would love a few more games like this. After John Jaso put them ahead with an RBI double in the third inning, Erasmo Ramirez allowed a run in the fifth and Steve Geltz gave up another in the sixth to make it a 2-1 game in favor of Toronto. However, then Brandon Guyer tied the game in the seventh on a solo homer before Curt Casali‘s blast in the following frame made it 3-2 Rays. Kevin Jepsen, Brad Boxberger, and Jake McGee tossed shutout ball to finish off the win.

Ramirez was looking fine before getting pulled after 4.2 innings. He allowed 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking none and forcing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. It makes things difficult for the Rays, though, that Ramirez really only has two pitches he can rely upon: his fastball and his changeup. For his career, Ramirez has allowed 38% of his home runs on his curveball and slider despite throwing the two pitches a combined 22% of the time. They get hit hard unless he uses them as little as possible, and he has abandoned his curveball almost entirely this season.

This is really the graph that explains everything about the way the Rays use Ramirez.

We know that pitchers need to change their approach to hitters each time through the batting order, and Brooks Baseball tells us that the Rays need Ramirez to throw increasingly more sliders as the game goes on. Especially against the Blue Jays’ great lineup, the Rays were scared that one of those pitches would end up in the seats. Steve Geltz gave up a Jose Bautista homer anyway, so maybe the strategy didn’t work in this game, but on the whole, ramping up Ramirez’s changeup usage and being willing to pull him from games early has been the Rays’ formula to lead Ramirez to success.

Back to the offense, it was exciting that Guyer and Casali came up big, and they continue to be present surprises. Guyer has played well enough to warrant more playing time other than his history of injuries weighing him down, and Casali has been a nice lift as a backup catcher who can swing the bat. We may eventually see Casali pinch-hit for Rivera in the sixth or seventh innings of games when the Rays think it’s too early to use a higher-quality option.

Jaso continues to be a great presence for the Rays at the top of their lineup, going 2 for 4 with his RBI double in this game, while Logan Forsythe went 2 for 4 with a double of his own. Tim Beckham also showed a nice mix of the form he showed earlier in the season and the adjustments he made in Durham, going 1 for 2 with a walk, a double, and a run scored. We saw Beckham’s power earlier in the season, but his plate approach was extremely questionable. Hopefully that is something he can continue to improve upon.

Today, the Tampa Bay Rays will go for the series win against Toronto and they have to like their chances. Chris Archer will head to the mound against Marco Estrada in a game set to begin at 1:07 PM EST.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Hunter Wood Rolls in High-A Debut

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